Headline — 06 February 2019 — by Albert J. Ciego
Stupidly-designed highway kills young teacher

Marlena Mortis , mother of 2, dead at 23; her death was caused by “experts” in the Ministry of Works who approved the controversial highway

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 4, 2019– A young teacher is dead, and her death could have been avoided if politicians and technocrats had exercised some intelligence in designing and approving the construction of a piece of road (“highways” do not belong in a city’s environs) in the city, heading north, to Ladyville.

Public criticism of the lack of even a pedestrian crossing on the long stretch of the recently-constructed entrance-exit roads between the roundabout near the Shell Depot/Mirab and the next roundabout near ScotiaBank/Brodies has proved to be well deserved.

The long stretch of roads leading in and out of the city, without a break to allow citizens access from the Buttonwood Bay side of the road, where Brodies and ScotiaBank are located, going out of the city, to the other side of the median, where DK Superstore is located, coming into the city, has caused frustrated citizens, when attempting to move from one side of the double-highway to the other side, to attempt the dangerous practice of dashing across the road from either side, and jumping across the high concrete barrier to access the other side.

The alternative is to walk almost a half-mile, or mile if you begin from the Shell Depot/Mirab roundabout, to the ScotiaBank/Brodies roundabout, and then the same distance coming back on the other side to shop at any of the big stores or go to the restaurants on the other side of the road, depending on what side of the double-highway you live.

The “powers-that-be” have turned a deaf ear to public criticism of the madness that they have done, and this Monday morning, a citizen lost her life attempting to cross from one side of the highway, across the concrete barrier, to the other side, reportedly trying to catch a bus.

Marlena Mortis, 23, a teacher of Dolphin Drive, Belize City, was attempting to cross the road opposite to where DK Superstore is located, at Mile 2 1/2 on the Philip Goldson Highway, at about 6:30 this morning when a vehicle that was heading into Belize City from the direction of Ladyville, having crossed the ScotiaBank/Brodies roundabout, knocked her down.

Mortis suffered massive head and body injuries and was rushed to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, but nothing could have been done to help her, and she died shortly after.

As if this was not enough for Mortis’ grieving father, while we were standing by the back-gate of the KHMH to speak to family members, her father came from the morgue with tears in his eyes and told us that the attendant refused to allow him to see his daughter, saying that it was a police case.

He told us that he worked 7 years in the old Belize City Hospital, and that attendants would steal the jewelry of the deceased people, and he wanted to ensure that his daughter still has her rings on her fingers and her cell phone, but he was denied access to her belongings. He said that his daughter was a teacher in Placencia, and was the mother of two children.

Mortis was a teacher at St John’s Memorial Anglican School in Placencia, Stann Creek District. Her high school classmate, Amandala reporter Courtney Menzies, said that Mortis obtained her Associate Degree in Education last year, and was moving forward to obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Belize. She was a dedicated teacher who wanted to excel in her profession.

Her neighbor, Shirl Bodden , described her as friendly and mannerly. She lived on Dolphin Drive here in Belize City and also in Placencia, where she taught.

This morning, Bodden said that she was called to identify a woman who had been knocked down on the highway and when police moved the plastic that she had been covered with, she identified Mortis and got goosebumps all over her body, because she knew Mortis well.

The neighbor said that mothers and children face danger almost every day, including herself, because the mothers make the children jump across the dividers and run across the highway to catch the bus to come to the city to attend schools, and she, herself, jumps over all the dividers to go to DK to shop.

Apparently, Bodden has become so adept at jumping over the barriers that she concludes that she does it “better than a man!”

They have been told to stop the dangerous practice, but the official crossings are too far away, and so they take a chance every day, knowing very well that it is very dangerous.

Bodden is calling on Government to make pedestrian crossings so that they can walk safely across the highway, from one side to the other.

While standing in front of DK Store this morning, a man took the great risk of jumping over the road dividers and crossed the dangerous highway in front of us. We spoke to a worker who was fixing the road dividers in front of Mirab building, who told us that it was unfortunate that the teacher was killed while crossing the road, but that the road is now designed to be a freeway, and that people must use the available pedestrian crossings, which are about a mile apart, and that other pedestrian crossings would not be built.

He urged people not to jump the barriers, but as we explained above, there are no other alternatives because there are no pedestrian crossings on the entire stretch of city “highway.”

During the police press brief held at the Raccoon Street Police Station this afternoon, ASP Alejandro Cowo said that after knocking down Mortis, the vehicle stopped a short distance away, and police detained the driver, a female, who is now in police custody pending investigation of Mortis’ death.

Cowo said that Mortis is not the first person killed while attempting to cross the dangerous double-highway (2 lanes going into the city and two lanes exiting the city), and is calling on people to use the two pedestrian crossings in the area, located near the roundabout  by the Scotia Bank/Brodies and the one in front of Shell Depot/MIRAB Ashley Building.

On our visit to the area we saw that the highway is divided into 4 lanes, two of which are from Ladyville to Belize City, and the other two are to Ladyville from the city. No pedestrian crossing is in the area, which is very dangerous.

Cowo called on people to stop jumping over the road barriers and go to the pedestrian crossings, although it is far, but it is the safest way. He said that an investigation is being carried out because they cannot yet say who is to be blamed, because where the collision occurred was not a pedestrian crossing.

Less than three months ago, at about 11:00 on the morning of November 12, 2018, taxi driver Arturo “Chiney Man” Requeña, Sr., 56, was knocked down at Mile 2 1/2 on the Philip Goldson Highway as he was attempting to cross from one side of the highway to the other.

When police arrived on the scene, they saw Requeña lying on the road, suffering from massive head and body injuries. He was rushed to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, but died shortly after while receiving treatment.

Requeña was the father of 13 children, who are now without their father; today, two children are now without their mother.

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Deshawn Swasey

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